Sunny Southern Spain

We originally did not plan to visit Southern Spain, but we’re now glad we decided to head this way because the area has presented many pleasant surprises. Here are a few highlights as we head west from Valencia, mostly along the coast.

Lighthouse atop Cap De Sant Antoni.

Our nearby overnight perch.

The incredible view of the harbor at Xabia.

Have to throw these windshield shots in every so often, so you don’t forget that this truly is a “road trip.”

The El Chamizo restaurant n Moraira caught our eye as we drove by, so we turned around to check it out more closely. The setting reminded us of Santa Barbara, California.

We easily decided to take time to enjoy this view (the menu looked good too).

Local rosé wine and house salad for starters.

Paella de Marisco (seafood) for two. Even waterfront dining out is reasonably priced in Spain. Gotta love that!

The Peñon de Ifach rock, located between the Calpe beaches looms large over the buildings.

And over my head.

West beach at Calpe.

We walked up hundreds of stairs in Altea to visit the old town. The streets were much too narrow for HaRVy so we had to park at the train station below.

Built over a hundred years ago with money collected by the 5,690 people residing in the village, the Church of Our Lady of Consolation of Altea stands tall at the hilltop.

Nearby square.

View from the top. Can you spot HaRVY?

Walking the cobblestone streets back down.

I wonder how much this seafront penthouse condo is worth. Needs a bit of work, but the view is outstanding.

We camped in the shadow of this lighthouse at Cabo de Palos seen here at sunrise/moon set.

This theater was built between 5 and 1 BC. In 1988 the first remains were discovered during a construction project.  The archaeological excavations and the restorations were completed in 2003.

Las Gredas de Bolnuevo are heavily eroded sandstone formations along the beach of Bolnuevo. The sandstone shapes were sculpted by water and wind over thousands of years and are considered as a monument of natural interest.

Loving the sunshine. We haven’t seen a drop of rain since arriving in Spain! This beach is at Mazarrón.

The beach in front of “Torguga Mora,” a great little campground run by Domingo and his son Sergio near Aguila.

Gotta love this campground map. Very laid back, relaxing, and far from everything. Just what we needed for a few days.

Being short time visitors (unlike most here for months), we didn’t get a waterfront site, but the view of the farm fields and distant mountains wasn’t too bad. Hey, what do you want for 8 Euros a night?!?

 

Entering España

Shortly after crossing into Spain we viewed the beautiful hills of the Basque Country.

After five days of driving we took a two night break in a quaint campground overlooking Navajas. 

The small town includes a few impressive haciendas.

Our walkabout took us to this nice waterfall too.

We were amazed that they built substantial buildings atop these eroding cliffs. I wouldn’t live there! Tough place to hang your laundry too. We noticed a few irretrievable items below.

Would love to see the interior of this amazing motorhome and how it collapses down to drive.

We had quite a lot of company at this location, and this is just one of several areas.

Would you want a view of a see of motorhomes if you owned one of these condo units?

The Mediterranean at last! This expansive beach is just a 2 minute walk from our camping spot. Most all these condos are empty awaiting summer residents.

More mohos.

Taking out the trash. This old guy lives in the tiny blue and white trailer shown in one of the photos above. Even though there were probably 200+ motorhomes, all seemed quite well mannered. Trash was taken to the bins and sewage dutifully emptied in the appropriate waste hole.

Lunch stop on the Mediterranean.

 

Our Mad Dash South

Once we’d fulfilled our obligatory 90 days outside the Schengen Area (most of continental Europe), we were anxious to find some warmer, drier weather. The first step was to get across the English Channel. We chose to do so via the EuroTunnel, which proved to be interesting and expedient.

The terminal building included a special 25-year anniversary exhibit about the tunnel. The average depth of the tunnel is 150 feet below the seabed (not the surface). It has the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world  at 23.5 miles.

Here we are getting ready to drive onto what they call a shuttle, which is actually a train built to carry vehicles. Shuttle trains are 800 yards long – the same as eight football fields. One leaves England every 20 minutes for the 35 minute crossing. Every day an average of 60,000 passengers pass through the tunnel, along with 4,600 trucks, 140 coaches and 7,300 cars.

Once onboard you must stay in your vehicle. Al grabbed the opportunity to take a nap.

Here we are driving through to the exit.

We had no interest in staying in Calais, France so we headed south to Montreuil-Sur-Mer where I stretched my legs with a walk along the ancient ramparts that surround the town center.

Which habit would you prefer? Make mine dark chocolate!

Modern “art” superimposed over traditional advertisement.

We generally prefer to meander along back roads, but warm weather beckoned, so we hopped on the Motorway and paid the high price of French tolls. $$$

LeMans was our next brief stop. By shear luck our chosen overnight parking spot was within easy walking distance of the old quarter.

Another day on the Motorway brought us to a beautiful free camping spot overlooking the River Dordogne.

We had this lovely spot all to ourselves.

We also overlooked the tiny village of Asques.

This nearby stairway took be down into the village for a look around.

Not a lot to see, but I often wonder what it would be like to live in such a place.

Onward into Spain next!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Final UK Days

Sorry to say that we won’t be missing England much after we transit the EuroTunnel to France tomorrow. The “Wettest Winter in Memory” did not serve us well. The 90 days away required for no-visa travel on continental Europe is over, so we are going back (for up to another 90 days), determined to find some warmer, drier weather. I am not usually one to let bad weather dampen my spirits, but enough is enough (rain and mud that is)!

I must add, however, that the British people have been absolutely terrific! How they remain so good-natured in such endlessly dreary conditions, I’ll never know.

Some mornings were mighty chilly.

The British Motor Museum features some interesting vehicles. This was one of the Deloreans used in the movie Back to the Future II.

This beauty is among a few British built Bonneville Salt Flat racers on display.

Love this fully restored vintage trailer, or caravan as they call them here in the UK.

They also featured quite a collection of cut-away engines and even a few cars cut right in half.

We happened to drive by this quintessential Cotswold House again. This time I took the time to get out and take a proper photo. Looks like a fairy tale house, doesn’t it?

In Chipping Campden we visited the workshop of Hart Silversmiths, a team of craftsmen specializing in the best traditions of handmade silver. Their work is exquisite and very difficult to resist.

We returned to stay a week in Cheryl and Julian’s lovely guest quarters (at far right next to their beautiful home), while HaRVy underwent some unexpected repairs. We are so fortunate to have met these gracious new friends.

Back on the road to the south coast we encountered lots of fog.

Apparently California isn’t the only place that has to deal with coastal erosion.

This doesn’t look like an easy solution, but it seems to be working for them.

Sorry about the mediocre photos, I’m sure this area near Lyme Regis is stunning when the sun shines.

This town has lots of interesting architecture, but an extensive infrastructure project blocked views of most of them. This Guild Hall dates back to the 1600’s.

The Town Mill, which continues to mill grain, has been re-purposed as art studios. Unfortunately, all were closed the day we visited.

Pretty back street.

Not so pretty front street, but at least the houses are colorful.

We drove out to the Isle of Portland, but didn’t stay due to regulations preventing overnight parking.

The crane is used to excavate Portland stone, which they’ve been quarrying here for decades.

We backtracked a bit to the charming village of Abbotsbury where the Swan Inn was happy to host us.

We even had a pretty nice countryside view.

Parts of this village are over 500 years old. These attractive row houses are considerably newer.

No idea about the vintage of this Hobbit House, but it sure is cute. I hope the occupant is short though.

This surprising combination was in a campground near Brighton. We did not meet the owner, but he must be an American!

The third pier to be built in Brighton, the Palace Pier was designed in 1891 specifically to be a “pleasure place.”

Give the Brits a bit of sunshine and they call it a day at the beach, no matter how cold it is!

Off to France and more southern climes!

 

Puttering About the Midlands

Off to the folly that is Broadway Tower atop the Cotswolds.

This inspiring location at the second-highest point of the Cotswolds offers expansive views although somewhat dimmed by cloud cover during our visit.

Our next stop was in Tewksbury, a medieval market town.

People have actually carved their initials into this statue. I could hardly believe my eyes.

Historic Abbey Mill on the River Avon. Recent rains caused serious flooding a couple of weeks before our visit. The river was still quite muddy as you can see.

Riverside homes with Abbey tower in the background.

More very old buildings, these are in Upton-Upon-Severn in the Malvern Hills District of Worcestershire.

The Tourist Information Center and Upton Heritage Center is housed inside the medieval “Pepperpot,” the oldest surviving building in the town. It was originally a church tower.

1863 railroad station in Malvern. Station buildings for the Worcester and Hereford Railway were designed by Edmund Wallace Elmslie with sculpture and metalwork by William Forsyth.

The original Priory in Great Malvern was built in 1085 for thirty monks and was much smaller than it is now.

The Enigma Fountain, designed by Rose Garrard, celebrates three themes: Sir Edward Elgar, the world famous composer, his music The Enigma Variations, and Malvern’s pure spring water.

 

 

Oxfordshire

Castle Farm lies a bit outside the official boundary for the Cotswolds, where I left you in my last post.

We were fortunate to camp at this beautiful home, thanks (again) to a kind introduction from our friend Sharyn. Cheryl and Julian welcomed us like old friends.

The view from our campsite. We watched a full-fledged fox hunt ride through the distant fields.

The nearby castle the farm used to belong to. This estate is still inhabited, but public tours are offered during the summer months.

Of course there is also a beautiful old church nearby.

More of the view from the farm.

This beautiful guest house used to be the farm’s pig sty. You’d never know it now.

Our gracious hostess, Cheryl, with her beloved bearded collies. Thank you Cheryl and Julian, we loved staying with you!

Our hosts gave us a lift into Oxford where the architecture is truly mind blowing. I can’t properly label them all, so I hope you can just enjoy the structures. Most are part of the Oxford University campuses.

University Church of Mary the Virgin

The Hertford Bridge is often referred to as the Bridge of Sighs because of its supposed similarity to the famous Bridge of Sighs in Venice. However, it was never intended to be a replica of the Venetian bridge, and instead it bears a closer resemblance to the Rialto Bridge in the same city.

The Radcliffe Camera (camera, meaning “room” in Latin), designed by James Gibbs in neo-classical style was built in 1737–49 to house the Radcliffe Science Library.

School was not in session during our visit, so the campus areas were not terribly busy.

Where the common folk (primarily students) live – just a couple of blocks away from the magnificence.

We dipped into the History of Science Museum briefly to view the world’s first computer, Einstein’s Blackboard, among many other interesting artifacts.

Oxford1623

 

 

 

Cotswolds Charm and The Bard

We knew we had entered the Cotswolds because the roads got noticeably more undulating. We traversed beautiful rolling hills with vast views.

Now that we are traveling during the school holiday break, the number of tourists wandering around has increased considerably. Stow-on-the-Wold was quite busy during our overnight stop.

Even though most of the homes are row houses, nearly every one has its own unique charm.

This home was converted to a petite cafe.

I found this one chair barbershop down a narrow alleyway.

 

I had to get up early in the morning to capture some shots without cars everywhere, but I couldn’t do anything about the trash bins set out to be emptied.

The Cotswolds are full of tiny villages. It would take a lifetime to visit them all. On the advice of new friends Lee & Bob we stopped in Chipping Campden, which we thoroughly enjoyed and never would have found without their tip.

Chipping Campden Market Hall was built in 1627 by Sir Baptist Hicks at the cost of the princely sum of just £90. The hall was intended to provide shelter from the elements for farmers selling goods like cheese, butter, and poultry. It is one of the most photographed and recognizable sites in the Cotswolds.

Beautiful homes line the primary streets in this village as well. A bit more grand here.

We struck up a conversation with this pleasant chap in front of his home on the High Street. After filling us in on some of the history of his village, he invited us in to see his parlor.

Parts of his home date back to the 14th Century! Pretty cozy I’d say.

Stratford-Upon-Avon is not technically in the Cotswolds, but it’s close enough for me to include here.

Our tour began with a walk along the banks of the Avon, making our way across to the Holy Trinity Church.

This is the church in which Shakespeare was baptized and where he was buried in the chancel two days after his death.

Will’s grave and the funerary monument above that features a demi-figure of the poet holding a quill pen in one hand and a piece of paper resting on a cushion in the other.

Stratford-Upon-Avon is a bustling modern town, but what strikes you as you walk through the town center are the many timber-framed Tudor houses intermingled with the familiar high-street shops.

We had a delicious lunch in this pub, The Garrick.

A couple of tourists (us) posing in front of the house Shakespeare was born in.

Our wonderful tour guides (thank you for the introduction Sharyn) Bob and Lee. The American Fountain is Victorian Gothic in style and includes two quotes from Shakespeare.

Don’t know anything about this building except that it is old and photogenic.

Have you seen enough Tudor architecture yet?

Al getting a modern new haircut at Harry’s Barber Shop.

The Royal Shakespeare Theater is a 1,040+ seat stage theater owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company dedicated to the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare.

The streets of Stratford-Upon-Avon feature some of the most beautiful Christmas decorations we’ve seen.

I hope your holidays were wonderful and that the new year brings you all you hope for. Cheers!